If there is one thing that most comic fans can agree on, it is that Alan Moore is kind of a twisted genius with his story telling. I mean, the series, and one shots, that he has written are some of the most talked about stories by fans and non-fans alike. So it makes sense that these stories would be turned into movies, as the comic movie business was really starting to bloom at the turn of the century. Now I read this limited series when I was a kid and I know I didn’t have the understanding of what was going on back then that I did when I re-read it before the movie came out. Now, let’s see how well the movie holds up as I watch, The Watchmen.
The plot: On an alternate Earth similar to ours, government agent Edward Blake is in his apartment watching the news discussing the rising tensions between U.S. and Soviet governments and the Soviet’s stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Suddenly, a masked intruder breaks into Blake’s apartment and begins attacking him and though Blake fights back, the intruder easily beats him before throwing him through the window, where Blake falls to his death on the street below. In flashbacks, we learn that during WWII, a group of costumed vigilantes called the Minutemen form to keep the streets safe from costumed gangs and crooks. After the war ends, several members of the team are killed, while another is committed to an asylum. During the 60’s, America ends up winning the Vietnam War with the help of a new hero, Dr. Manhattan. A new group of heroes, calling themselves the Watchmen, band together to protect the streets but rising anti-vigilante sentiments cause many members of the group to disband, while Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian become government agents and Rorschach continues to operate outside the law. Back in the present (1985), the cops are investigating Blake’s murder and after they leave, Rorschach enters and does his own search to reveal that Blake was actually his old teammate The Comedian. Elsewhere, Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl of the Minutemen who is long retired and runs an auto shop, is talking with Daniel Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl of the Watchmen, and discussing some of his old exploits. When Dreiberg leaves, he finds Rorschach waiting for him at his home and he tells Dreiberg about the Comedian’s death. Knowing Blake had done black ops work for the government, Dreiberg theorizes it could have been a political hit but Rorschach feels like it is someone targeting former costumed heroes. The next day, Daniel goes to see Adrian Veidt, who had come clean about his identity as the costumed Ozymandias and now runs a billion dollar empire. They discuss Rorschach’s theory but Veidt deems it unlikely, as Blake had made many enemies over the years, and it was most likely someone getting revenge on him alone. Meanwhile, Rorschach goes to a government facility to see Dr. Manhattan and his wife Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre II) to tel them about Blake’s death and ask Dr. Manhattan to see if the killer is ever found. Dr. Manhattan says that something his ability to see the future, most likely an impending nuclear war. He then teleports Rorschach out of the facility and speaks with Laurie briefly before telling her to say hi to Daniel for him, knowing she will go to see him. Laurie does go to see Dreiberg and the two catch up while Laurie starts complaining about how Jon (Dr. Manhattan) has been pulling away from her. The next day, as Blake’s funeral is taking place, Laurie goes to see her mother Sally, the original Silk Spectre, who has her own troubled history with Blake as he had raped her while they were members of the Minutemen, resulting in Sally becoming pregnant with Laurie. At the funeral, Dreiberg, Dr. Manhattan, and Veidt all attend and Dreiberg and Dr. Manhattan each have their own memories of their interactions with Blake that come to the surface. That night, Rorschach breaks into the apartment of a former criminal, Moloch, and asks why he attended Blake’s funeral. Moloch explains that he was paying his respects, as Blake had broken into his apartment a week ago and had cried as he rambled about doing bad things and that Moloch’s name was on a list as well as some others, including his. Meanwhile, Laurie gets upset with Dr. Manhattan when he makes clones to make love to her while he continues working on his devices and after arguing with him, she leaves him. Laurie ends up at Dreiberg’s place and the two decide to go get some dinner but as they cut through an alley, they are jumped by a gang of muggers and they end up beating or killing all of them. Meanwhile, Dr. Manhattan is scheduled to do a TV interview and while he is being questioned by the reporters in the audience, one of them asks if he is aware that several people he has had close contact with have contracted cancer or died of it, including his former girlfriend/partner Janey Slater. Janey is brought forth and she curse at Jon for what he has done to her before leaving as Jon calls out to her. As the reporters swarm around Dr. Manhattan to try and ask him questions, he yells out for them to leave him alone, then teleports himself to Mars, where he begins building a structure for himself. Back on Earth, Veidt is being interviewed in his building when there is an assassination attempt made on him but he survives and attempts to find out who sent the assassin but the assassin takes a suicide pill and kills himself. As Dreiberg and Laurie discuss it, as well as Jon’s disappearance, they are unaware that they are being observed by Rorschach in his civilian identity. Rorschach goes to see Moloch again, as he saw evidence linking him to Veidt’s would-be assassin, but when he gets there, he finds Moloch dead and he is being set up for the crime. Moloch tries to fight off the police but he is arrested and placed in prison. Many of the prisoners are excited to have Rorschach locked up with them, as they see it as a chance to get revenge on him but he warns that they should be more afraid, as he is now locked in there with him. Meanwhile, Dreiberg and Laurie get closer to each other and end up sleeping together. After waking from an apocalyptic dream, Dreiberg heads down to his secret lair and Laurie finds him staring at his old costume, saying he had wanted to make a difference in the world. The two decide to don their old costumes and go fly in Dreiberg’s vehicle when they hear a report of a fire at an apartment building. The two go to help rescue the people trapped in the building and, after having sex again, decide to go break Rorschach out of prison. Meanwhile, a prison riot occurs and Big Figure, a criminal that Rorschach had arrested, uses the opportunity to try and kill Rorschach but he takes care of Big Figure’s two body guards, then heads to the warden’s office to get his mask back. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II show up at the prison, dealing with some of the rioters as well as a guard that tries to arrest them and see Rorschach chase Big Figure into the restroom, where he kills him, then they all leave. When the return to Dreiberg’s home, they find Dr. Manhattan waiting for them and he says he is there to speak with Laurie and Laurie tells Dreiberg not to worry as she agrees to go with him. After they leave, Dreiberg and Rorschach decide to investigate Pyramid international and discover that Veidt’s company is the parent company, which means that Veidt was behind everything. On Mars, Laurie and Dr. Manhattan argue over the oncoming nuclear war and Dr. Manhattan reveals to Laurie that Blake was her father, causing her to think her life was a joke but Dr. Manhattan comforts her and says they will go back to Earth. Dreiberg and Rorschach head to Veidt’s Antarctic hideout to confront Veidt but he is easily able to beat them as he explains that what he is doing is to bring about world peace. He explains that he had built nuclear explosives that will mimic Dr. Manhattan’s energy signature and plans to detonate them in some of the world’s most populous cities, in order to unite the world against a common enemy, Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan and Laurie arrive in New York after the device goes off and Dr. Manhattan realizes what occurred and teleports them to Veidt’s base. He moves to confront Veidt but he maneuvers Dr. Manhattan into a chamber that is intended to destroy him, using the same process that created him. As Veidt returns to the others, Laurie tries to shoot him but he catches the bullet and kicks her aside. Dr. Manhattan is revealed to have survived the trap and goes to confront Veidt again but Veidt turns on the TV’s to reveal President Nixon talking about the U.S. and Soviet Union uniting to protect the planet from Dr. Manhattan. Realizing that Veidt really has brought about peace in their time, even if it is based on a lie, Dr. Manhattan, Dreiberg, and Laurie all seem to agree with Veidt but Rorschach refuses to compromise. As he leaves the base, he is confronted by Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach demands that he kill him as that is the only way to get him to stop and Dr. Manhattan does as he wishes, as Dreiberg screams out in grief. Dr. Manhattan leaves the planet, saying goodbye to Laurie and an enraged Dreiberg attacks Veidt, who refuses to defend himself, and argues about why Rorschach had to die before he leaves with Laurie. Some time later, Dreiberg and Laurie pay a visit to Laurie’s mother and Laurie tells Sally that she knows the truth about Blake. Sally tells her she wanted to say something so many times but just couldn’t bring herself to do it, then heads into the other room for a minute to collect herself as she is overcome with emotion. Laurie and Dreiberg then talk about the apparent truce and Dreiberg says that as long as people think Jon is out there watching them and willing to attack again, the peace will stand. Meanwhile, at the office of The New Frontiersman newspaper, the editor is complaining about there being no good news stories since the whole world is at peace. An employee named Seymour says they could print something from the “Crank” bin and the editor says to print whatever he wants. As the editor goes back to his office, Seymour glances at the bin, where Rorschach’s journal is sitting, as he had sent it to the newspaper before he left for the Antarctic.
The Watchmen met with mixed to positive results from the critics, holding a 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Gritty and visually striking, Watchmen is a faithful adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, but its complex narrative structure may make it difficult for it to appeal to viewers not already familiar with the source material.” When the trailer first premiered during The Dark Knight, it created so much interest in it that it caused the graphic novel to end up back on the bestseller list and Barnes & Noble reported selling out nationwide. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $183.5 million off of a $138 million budget.
Despite the rather dark tones it took, this was a pretty good comic book movie. The acting was good, with Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan doing great jobs as Rorschach and Blake respectively. I also liked Billy Crudup’s stoic portrayal of Dr. Manhattan, as it really fit with the character and his losing touch with his humanity and emotions. The story followed the comic pretty closely, with the only real big change being Veidt’s plan, as in the comics he faked an alien invasion that destroyed the cities instead of framing Dr. Manhattan for it. The fight scenes in the prison were pretty well done, and I liked the fight in the Antarctic, but I thought the fight in the alley between Dreiberg, Laurie, and the muggers, was too slow, and I know it was somewhat deliberate in it’s filming but it still seemed overly slow. The special effects were pretty good all around but I think we could have gone with out repeatedly seeing Dr. Manhattan’s crotch in that once scene. Yes, it is dark and yes, there are some parts that people won’t like, but this is still a good movie that is worth giving a shot.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5